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Documentary Video Production

Shooting Interviews

This LinkedIn Learning course is a must-see for anyone shooting documentaries. It includes invaluable information about how to light, stage. and film an interview. 

Link to tutorial Video Foundations: Interviews

Welcome from Video Foundations: Interviews by Anthony Q. Artis


Although you will be capturing real events unfolding in real time, you can still be creative about how you compose your shots. See the links below for more information about the techniques of composition.

The most basic consideration for shooting video is how to frame your shot:

Wide shot of mountains Extreme Long Shot: Very wide shot, often for landscapes 

photo via Wikimedia Commons

Full body shot of man Long Shot: From head to toe

photo from flickr by Adam Lerner 

Medium shot of man Medium Long Shot: From the knees up

photo via Wikimedia Commons

Medium shot of woman Medium Shot: From the waist up

photo via Wikimedia Commons

Medium close up of woman Medium Close Up: Includes the head and shoulders

photo via Wikimedia Commons

Close up of man Close Up: Frames the face

photo from flickr by Ryan Li

Close up of human eye Extreme Close Up: Tight framing shows a detail in the scene

photo from flickr by Elaine 

For more detailed information, visit this website.

Camera Movement

Camera Motion

Camera Pan GIF Pan: Camera scans x axis from static position (swivels side to side)

photo via Wikimedia Commons

Camera Tilt GIF Tilt: Camera scans y axis from static position (swivels up & down)

photo via Wikimedia Commons

Camera tracking icon Tracking: Camera tracks subject along x axis (moves side to side)

Camera Crane Icon Crane: Camera tracks subject along y axis (moves up and down)

Camera Dolly IconDolly: Camera tracks subject along z axis (moves forward and back)

Man with film camera Handheld: Camera held by operator for natural movement effect

photo via Wikimedia Commons


In documentary filmmaking, A-Roll is generally your interview footage, while B-roll is the supporting footage inserted between the interview clips. Some types of documentaries (poetic, observational) do not have this structure and consist entirely of A-Roll footage.

Filming Tips

CHECK YOUR BATTERIES & EQUIPMENT: This is something you want to check and double-check. Nothing is worse than being out on a shoot and having to call it quits because your camera died.

TAKE YOUR PLANNING MATERIALS: Don't forget to take your interview questions, maps, release forms, storyboards, and anything else you prepared for your shoot.

USE A TRIPOD: Using a tripod is a much-overlooked aspect of filmmaking. Your footage will look a lot more professional.

AVOID ZOOMING: Zooming is an art. Films with a lot of zooming resemble home movies.

STICK TO ONE ASPECT RATIO: Pick one aspect ratio (16:9 or 4:3) in your camera settings and don't change it. It will make editing much easier.

SHOOT MORE THAN (YOU THINK) IS NECESSARY: If you're not quite sure if you got the take right, try it again while you have everyone in place. Scheduling reshoots is difficult and inconvenient!

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